After reading The Mountain Echo’s article, the Washington Post article, and the Board of Trustees letter to the Mountain Echo regarding the recent issues with attempts at “boosting” student retention rates, I am very disturbed not only by the initial approach, but the college’s response to the issue.
First, the issue itself, and the president’s emails, from The Mountain Echo article.
“My short term goal is to have 20-25 people leave by the 25th [of Sep.]. This one thing will boost our retention 4-5%. A larger committee or group needs to work on the details but I think you get the objective.”
President Newman, The Mount absolutely should not attempt to “boost” its retention by having struggling students leave early.
Is removing struggling students to make the college look better truly in line with The Mount’s principles as a Catholic University?
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
The Mount, as a Catholic University, should focus first and foremost on helping as many of its students as possible.
Is it right to give up on students who are struggling?
Second, President Newman’s statement in The Washington Post.
“An ongoing grade point average below 2.0, failure to turn in assignments, not attending class or not logging into student portals are some indicators that a student may not make it through their degree program. And there are social indicators as well – failure to join clubs or activities and complaining about finances or stress.”
As a commuter student who had to pay for part of my education by working while attending class, I struggled. I’m not proud of it, but at one point in time, my semester grade point average was below 2.0, I was unable to join clubs or participate in activities, and I had a large amount of stress and financial woes. I had stopped attending class because of personal issues in my life at that time.
However, I did not give up, and The Mount did not give up on me. Through the help of my teachers, my family, and my friends, I was able to press forward, graduate, and go on to lead a successful career, applying the Computer Science degree I earned at The Mount in my daily work.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Because The Mount did not give up on me, I did not give up on myself.
Finally, the Board of Trustees, and your chastising the Managing Editor of The Mountain Echo and their faculty advisor.
The usage of The Mount’s “fair use” policy to criticize The Mountain Echo is no different than a company or government agency going after a whistleblower. These emails were clearly not in the best interests of the students, or even alumni. I am quite honestly ashamed of the Mount’s attempts to “fudge the numbers” with their retention. The Mountain Echo did not expose these emails to hurt the college, but to protect the students.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
Additionally, emails sent on Mount Saint Mary’s email system are not property of the faculty and staff, but property of the college itself. Employees of the college should have no expectation of privacy in their emails with the exception of performance review or personal information, as those emails are for business purposes. To claim that emails concerning college policy and procedures which do not directly impact the privacy of a student, with the intention of simply boosting the retention rate as reported by the college, is “a violation of privacy”, is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt at distracting from the issue at hand.
I will pray for my Alma Mater, that the Lord shall help guide the President and Board of Trustees to the Christian way of boosting retention – through helping others, not shunning them.
To The Mountain Echo – I applaud and support your efforts to create transparency regarding this issue. Your journalistic methods are sound, and your actions are right. Do not allow adversity to overwhelm you. You chose the right path, not the easy one. Take pride in that.
Ken Buckler, Class of 2006
Editor, WashCo Chronicle